Get Your Affairs in Order Before You Get Sick

Get Your Affairs in Order Before You Get Sick

Get Your Affairs in Order Before You Get Sick

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No one wants to think about getting sick or dying. But a little planning can give you peace of mind. And it will make it easier on you and your loved ones if it does happen.

COVID-19 can hit hard on people of any age, including people who are healthy and haven’t thought about what care they would want if their health fails. Talk about and document your wishes. Medical workers must make decisions quickly, so there will be little time to talk it through on the fly. It’s vital to make decisions in advance.

“You are never too young or too healthy to start these conversations,” says Harvard Medical School. leaving site icon “It involves identifying your goals and values, learning about life-sustaining interventions … and sharing with loved ones and your doctors your preferences. An advance directive is written documentation of these preferences.” Doctors will ask you about your care. But if you can’t speak, they will ask your loved ones.

Start the Talk

Too many people die in a way they would not choose, says the Conversation Project, leaving site icon which aims to get people to talk about their wishes. Yet many people avoid talking about dying. “It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves,” says the group, which offers a form called “Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19leaving site icon to get the talk started.

One especially important step is to fill out an Advance Health Care Directive, says the Family Caregiver Alliance. leaving site icon That helps you and your caregivers. It names one person as an official decision maker if you’re too sick to speak for yourself. Planning ahead means thinking about what is important and talking about this with people you’re close to. Ask these questions:

  • What makes life worth living for me?
  • What would make life not worth living?
  • If I knew my life was coming to an end, what would comfort me?
  • What would I most want to avoid?
Organize Paperwork

“No one ever plans to be sick or disabled. Yet it's this kind of planning that can make all the difference in an emergency,” says the National Institute on Aging leaving site icon (NIA).

Tips from the NIA:

  • Put your important papers in one place.
  • Tell your family where that place is.
  • Provide copies of information about your doctor, banking, health plan, investments and more.
  • Talk with your doctor. Ask what health choices you may have to make in the future. That helps make sure your wishes are honored.
  • Give the go-ahead for a family member or caregiver to talk to your doctor and lawyer. You may need to fill out a form from your doctor.
  • Learn about common types of advance directives so you can plan for your care if you’re sick.

There are two types of advance directives you will need to have:

  • A living will lets you say what health care you want if you become too sick to make your wishes known. And you can say what care you do not want. That may make it easier on your family members to make tough health care choices for you later.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care lets you name the person you want to make health choices for you if you can't make them yourself. First ask to make sure the person is willing to do that for you.

Learn about the forms needed in different states. AARP leaving site icon has a free listing.

You can always hope for the best. And maybe you won’t need to have taken any of these steps. But it’s better to have a plan.

Sources: Advanced Illness: Holding On and Letting Go, leaving site icon Family Caregiver Alliance; Get Your Affairs In Order, COVID-19 Won’t Wait, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2020; Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19, leaving site icon The Conversation Project, 2020; Advanced Directive Forms, leaving site icon AARP, 2020